Profiles in Courage: Captain Bill Robinson (Ret.) - Soapbox, Jr.
Last weekend, mom and I attended an event along with Twin Pines Ranch manager, Thurman Mullins, his wife and their three daughters and another dear family friend. As with many things we have been attending lately, I wasn’t clear on what all was going on until we got there, but this was a very special evening.
It was an art show called “Vietnam 2 Soldiers 2 Artists 2 Journeys Then & Now” at the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center in Hendersonville, TN, with paintings and drawings from two Vietnam veterans, David Wright and Chuck Creasy.
Thurman “Doc” Mullins, is also a Vietnam veteran and knew David Wright who asked dad to write a piece for the program for the event which was originally scheduled for last year and rescheduled for 2021 because of Covid. That piece was part of a two-page spread in the program acknowledging dad’s passing last year. Many kind words were said about dad and his love and support for our veterans.
But the evening was about the art, the artists and our Vietnam veterans, most of which never got a proper welcome when they returned home.
Dad recorded a song by a writer named Dan Daley which became a rallying cry for the Vietnam vets, “Still in Saigon,” which describes a vet who returned home to scorn from family members from his service and struggled with PTSD, sadly, something all too typical of those who served in “‘Nam.”
The evening kicked off in dramatic fashion as a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter landed on the front lawn at the MCCC piloted by a Vietnam vet who flew them in the war.
Then there were speakers involved with the event and songwriter extraordinaire, Steve Dean, who also lends his songwriting expertise to helping vets tell their stories through song, performed.
The highlight, however, was the main speaker, Capt. Bill Robinson, (Ret), the longest-serving POW in American history.
At the time he was captured, he was an Air Force Airman whose helicopter was shot down in 1965 and he was held by local militias and turned over to the Viet Cong. He spent almost all of his twenties in North Vietnamese POW camps, from twenty-three to the age of 30.
Seven and a half long years.
That’s longer than John McCain, who was held for over five years, in fact, Capt. Robinson was in the prisoner welcoming committee when McCain was brought to the “Hanoi Hilton,” although they did not see each other much as they were being held in different locations most of the time.
He did tell the story of one of McCain’s cellmates who created an American flag from scraps of cloth he picked up. When it was safe, they would display the flag in the cell and salute it.
He kept it hidden from their captors in his shirt, but one day the flag was discovered in a surprise inspection. He received a blow to the head from the butt end of a rifle and was taken outside and beaten. They returned him to his cell in bad shape, but McCain and his other cellmates nursed him back to health. Eventually, when he was well enough, he raised up, smiled and said, “Time for flag number two!”
Capt. Robinson described the conditions that he and the other POWs endured, and deplorable doesn’t even come close. They were treated worse than animals. Rats, mosquitos, cockroaches were their constant companions in this new reality. The food they were given was usually rice, or often a soup made from boiled grass, or an occasional piece of pork fat that still had hair attached.
Often, they weren’t allowed to bathe for weeks at a time, and if it was cold out, they didn’t have enough blankets, and when it was hot, they were roasting, not to mention the rampant disease and the torture that also occurred.
He talked about his captors playing the words of Robert McNamara, Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, when he said that the POWs were “expendable.” It’s possible that the words were somehow meant in jest, but they still hit home with him and his fellow POWs.
He said it was obvious that they wanted them to go away, and disappear from the public’s short memory, because it was a stain on the Johnson administration, and on the nation as a whole.
When he did finally arrive back home in 1973, he and his fellow POWs received a better welcome home than those who fought and did not get captured.
When many of them returned home, they were told to not wear their uniforms so they did not “offend anyone.”
A friend of mine told me that her father was also told not to wear his uniform in public, and to not look anyone in the eye.
The war had become so politicized that, as Capt. Robinson put it, “They couldn’t separate the war from the warriors.”
Tragically, he is correct.
I’m not saying that there weren’t atrocities, much like our law enforcement officers, the majority are good people, but there are a few bad apples that sadly become the face of all.
It was an honor to meet Capt. Richardson, and to hear his story, which unfortunately isn’t that well-known.
Thank you to all those who have served honorably, yet by way of John Kerry, or a certain actress who will remain nameless, have been portrayed as monsters.
Thank you, Capt. Robinson. I wish dad had been here to hear your story. I know he would have done his best to tell it, so I’m stepping in for him.
God bless you, all.
If you are in the “Tennessee Midlands,” as dad used to call it, I highly recommend the exhibit at the MCCC. I believe it runs until the fall, and it benefits their Between the Lines Healing Arts Program and helps vets tell their stories through art to help with their healing, a very worthwhile cause.
Let’s all make the day count.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU POST
Feel free to comment on soapboxes, but please refrain from profanity and anonymous posts are not allowed, we need a name and you MUST provide a valid email address. If you provide an email address, but leave the name as "Anonymous" we will pick a name for you based on your email address. No one other than website administrators will see your email address, not other posters. If you post without a valid email address, your comment (whether positive or negative) will be deleted. — TeamCDB/BW
Check out "Geechi Geechi Ya Ya Blues" from Beau Weevils - 'Songs in the Key of E'